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Within the first two weeks of their friendship, Jessica was already rolling her eyes at almost everything Oscar said. That or punching his arm and sighing deeply. She was dating someone at the time so he told himself they were just friends, really good friends.

It wasn’t a coincidence that Oscar managed to show up at every party that he heard Jessica would also attend, but he told himself it was.

“Yeah, maybe,” he’d say, whenever someone invited him.

“Tim will be there, Kayla, Jessica….”

“Oh yeah? I’ll probably show.”

It wasn’t entirely because he knew Jessica would be there, he also wanted to hook up with Kayla. Yeah, that was the reason.

Jessica found him on the porch while he was jamming with a few people. She looked nice, with a kind of sparkly top and something dark and smudgy around her eyes.

“I can’t believe you smoke,” was the first thing she said to him.

Oscar ashed his cigarette and stuck it back between his lips, grinning.

“You’ll get cancer,” she said conversationally, sitting on the bench next to him.

“Yeah, but it makes me look cool.”

“God, don’t get an ego or anything.”

“I won’t,” he said without any attempt at sincerity.

“Too late,” she muttered, gesturing to his pageboy hat. “Like seriously, what is this hat? I didn’t know Newsies was your end-of-year project.”

“Ha, real witty.”

“Well, are you gonna play me something?” she said, indicating his guitar.

“We’re jamming, I’m not playing you something,” he said, even though the rest of his jam session were drifting away. “Hey, won’t drinking beer give you liver failure?”

Jessica raised her red solo cup to him and grinned cheekily. “Yeah, fair. C’mon, play me something.”

Maybe it was the early spring weather making him feel it. The stars beyond the blossoming trees were just visible and Jessica’s face was haloed by her cherry red hair and the yellow backlight from inside the house, casting a golden glow on her skin. He hadn’t had a drink, but he still felt all weird and hazy. Her eyes were glinting, bright in the gloom.

So he played something short and dumb, he couldn’t even remember what it was when it was over. He couldn’t look at her while he played, it made him too nervous. Being on stage was fine, it was more than fine, but it was so intimate out on that porch, no one looking at him but her. His hand slowed and he looked back at her, hoping it wasn’t obvious that he was blushing.

“Cool,” she said, with a soft smile.

It wasn’t the most ringing endorsement, but he still felt warm. It was coming from Jessica and he could tell when she was fucking with him and when she was being real. He picked his cigarette off the ashtray where he had set it and took a drag.

“Ugh, no one is gonna want to kiss you, you know,” she said, making a face.

“Now I know you’re full of shit,” he said, laughing.

“One day you won’t try to hook up with anything that moves,” she said with a dramatic sigh. “One day.”

That night Oscar did manage to hook up with Kayla and it was fine. There was a brief moment, when he was under her, thinking about the night. When he remembered Jessica’s long hair brushing his arm and he felt all strange and tingly. He shut his eyes, recalling the way her eyes looked in the low light, reflecting the glow of his cigarette.

“That was really great,” Kayla whispered, her breath tickling his neck.

“Yeah,” he said automatically. “It was.”

 

It was the end of the year and Oscar decided to get drunk. He could say that was his first mistake, but it probably wasn’t. It was past midnight and he was knocking on Jessica’s door. Pounding might have been more accurate.

“Oh my god, you’re drunk,” she said and looked a little worried for a minute.

“It’s fine, I’m just celebrating,” he grinned big and collapsed on her couch.

“OK, what about liver failure?” she said carefully, sitting next to him. Her apartment was tiny and there wasn’t much room.

“Pft.”

Jessica laughed. “That’s all you got, ‘pft?’”

Oscar shrugged. Jessica had obviously been getting ready for bed, or maybe she was already in bed. She was wearing a baggy Les Mis shirt and flannel boxer shorts, her legs long and pale. Her face was bare, her hair braided over her shoulder. She must have just taken a shower, judging by the damp stain on her shirt where her hair lay and the powerful smell of her lotion. Warm, vanilla, almost spicy. Like dessert. He wanted to curl up next to her and kiss her neck. The thought bloomed in his head like a wine stain, spreading warmth all the way to his fingertips.

“Lemme get you water,” Jessica said.

He watched her walk to the kitchenette, admiring the shape of her thighs. Since when did he admire the shape of her anything? Jessica brought him a glass of water and fixed him with a piercing look.

“Are you still seeing Amanda?” she asked.

“Seeing? I wouldn’t call that seeing, we're just hooking up,” he said.

“Geez, what happened to like, dating someone?” she said in exasperation.

Oscar shrugged. He didn’t really want to talk about other girls with her. Of course he usually did, he usually told her all about the girls he was sleeping with because she always told him her relationship troubles. Jessica was a serial monogamist and it sounded like way too much trouble to Oscar.

“Well, you can crash here if you want, party boy,” she told him after a beat.

“Thanks, Jess,” he said, raising his glass, but he wasn’t very coordinated and dribbled some on his pants.

Jessica giggled and ruffled his hair. Oscar was used to girls touching his hair and making comments about his bouncy curls, and it was usually whatever. There was something about Jessica touching him though, even in the most innocent way, that made his chest constrict.

Somehow his head ended up in her lap. He had expected her to run off to bed since she had obviously been heading there before he disturbed her, but instead he had her bare thigh against his cheek. She was petting his hair absently, her nails just barely scraping his scalp. She smelled so good it was a little distracting. Very distracting. And he was focusing on not getting a boner. Since he was failing at that endeavor, Oscar pulled his knees up to his chest and just let her keep petting him.

The next morning, Oscar woke up to a pounding headache and a powerful thirst. He could hear Jessica banging around in her kitchenette and it was making his head throb. He cracked an eyelid and saw her bending over to look into the fridge. She was wearing shorts, her hair in a messy bun. Oscar rolled over, trying to covertly rearrange his morning erection.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” she said, when she saw he was awake. “Coffee?”

“Yeah, sure,” he said, not moving. Coffee sounded amazing but he just couldn’t stand up at the moment.

“Did we learn any important lessons about binge drinking?” she said in a light tone.

“Nope.” He shot her a sly look and she smiled, her whole face lighting up.

“I have Advil for you, too,” she said.

“Thanks,” he said gratefully. He was thinking about the night before. He wondered how long she had sat there, letting him drool on her thigh, petting his hair.

“Move it,” she said suddenly, poking his head with her toe.

Oscar shot up, grabbing a pillow to cover his lap. She sat next to him, holding two brimming mugs of coffee. She held out her hand, giving him two Advil tablets. He took them gratefully, taking huge gulps of very sweet and light coffee.

“Thanks for the coffee, I probably have diabetes now,” he said.

“Not everybody likes your hipster soy milk lattes,” she muttered and plucked at his woven leather bracelet. “Can I have a friendship bracelet too?”

“Our friendship is forever, it doesn’t need a bracelet,” he said with a toothy grin, rubbing her shoulder.

Jessica smiled and laid her head on his shoulder. He could smell her hair from how close she was, her leg pressed up close against his. He felt lightheaded again and took another huge sip of coffee. He was going to miss her over the summer, always having her nearby to talk to and hang out. But he didn’t know how to say it.

Instead he said, “Thanks for letting me crash, Jess.”

“Any time, pal,” she said.

He didn’t know why that would make him feel sad, but it did.

 

One year later, Jessica was graduating and Oscar was going to miss her more than ever and didn’t know quite how to deal with it. So he just tried not to think about it.

After her end-of-year play, he hugged her back stage, kissed her cheek, told her how amazing she was. Her hair was hard and crunchy with hairspray and her cheek was thick with greasy cake makeup, but she was glowing, radiating with happiness. Oscar had been telling himself he was depressed because he was going to miss all his friends, but really it was just one of them.

“Are you coming to the party tonight?” she asked a little breathlessly.

“Yeah, of course,” he said, all smiles. Of course, of course, he would always be there.

At the party, she looked gorgeous, her red hair soft and wavy, her skin glowing. Oscar was trying to talk to everyone so it wouldn’t look like he was hanging around her like a puppy begging for a treat, but it was like he was drawn to her like a magnet. He couldn’t stop looking at her wherever she was standing and he was constantly aware of her and who she was talking to. He saw her chatting with some guy, tall and handsome, and Oscar was intimately aware that she had just broken up with her boyfriend.

“Your facial hair is confusing,” she told him when he found himself beside her yet again.

“What, why?” he muttered, scrubbing his fingers through his goatee. He thought it looked sharp.

“I don’t know, you look like the villain in a soap opera.”

“Maybe that’s what I was going for,” he countered, grinning crookedly.

“Should I throw my drink in your face then?” she said. She smiled crookedly and his heart skipped a beat. "Isn't that what they do?"

"Yeah, go for it," he muttered, trying to keep his tone teasing despite his heart fluttering like a trapped bird. She only grinned.

He sipped his beer, trying to pace himself. Jessica wandered off and Oscar, finding himself alone, went to sit next to Tamara, who he knew vaguely from Art and Aesthetics. She was cute enough and smiled big when he started chatting with her.

Way later in the night, after almost everyone had gone home, Oscar wandered out onto the balcony where Jessica was watching the city. Her hair was loose, tossed across her face by the light breeze.

“It won’t be the same without you,” he said, setting his forearms on the railing next to her. It was late and he was tired and a little buzzed and it was making him earnest.

“Yeah,” she said softly. “I’ll miss everyone.”

Everyone. Not any particular someones. Oscar stared out at the bright lights of the city, shifting and winking and blotting out the stars. Beside him, Jessica shivered.

“Let’s go in, I’m getting cold,” she said.

Inside, everyone was gone, leaving bottles and solo cups everywhere, sparkling confetti on the floor. All of Jessica’s congratulatory bouquets were propped up in water-filled mason jars on almost every surface. They both ignored all the party debris and headed to her bedroom where she put on some music.

“Weren’t you chatting up Tamara earlier?” Jessica asked, kicking off her shoes.

“We were chatting, I wasn’t chatting her up,” Oscar grumbled, falling sideways onto her bed.

“I didn’t think there was a difference with you,” she teased lightly.

She had put Christmas lights all around her curtains and headboard and they filled the room with a soft, warm glow. Jessica flopped next to him, hitting him in the face with her hair. Oscar suddenly felt shy. He had been in her room hundreds of times, they had lazed around on her bed listening to music, chatting, doing whatever. He wondered if he would even see her again.

“Are you nervous?” he asked, fiddling with the tasseled edge of her pillow.

“Well, I am now,” she said, eyes wide.

“Don’t be, you’ll be great,” he said sincerely.

She turned to him, smiling warmly, her skin glowing in the dim light. She took his hand and squeezed. Oscar felt a weird fluttering in his chest. He couldn’t stop looking at her lips. He could smell her, she was so close, that fragrant vanilla was like a Pavlovian response to his dick and he shifted uncomfortably.

“Do you promise not to hook up with anyone I wouldn’t?” she whispered, stroking his forearm.

“Yeah, I promise,” he muttered. They were teasing each other still, but it didn’t feel like it. Her eyes looked dark, almost hooded and she nibbled on her lower lip.

Oscar was no stranger to being rash and he told himself it was just the heightened feeling of the night that made him lean in and kiss her. She tasted like warm candy. He felt Jessica’s hand on his chest and he pulled away, face burning.

“Oscar,” she said very softly, a puff of air against his lips.

“Sorry,” he said quickly, palms itching. He didn’t want to pull away.

“It’s OK,” she said after a moment and he saw her eyes flick to his mouth and then back up. Her hand snuck up his chest to tangle in his hair and that was it.

They rolled around on her bed for a while, making out like they were in high school again. Oscar felt like he was getting high off the feel of her, although he had never been high in his life. Just touching her made him dizzy, warm and tingly, thoughts tripping over themselves. She felt fantastic against him, her mouth warm and pliant, her soft curves fitting perfectly in his hands. He kissed her throat, sliding a hand into her silky hair. Her thigh had wedged between his legs, pushing against his hard-on and Oscar groaned, rocking into her.

He didn’t want to think about how maybe this was a bad idea and he kept expecting Jessica to be the practical one and push him back, tell him simply that they shouldn’t be doing this and he would take the hit gracefully and go on his way. It didn’t happen though. Instead Jessica’s hand groped at the button on his jeans and Oscar moaned into her neck.

It was all a little rushed, a little fumbling and Oscar’s fingers trembled as he tried to unhook her bra. He was so frazzled it took him way too long to realize that it opened in the front and Jessica giggled. He finally pushed the straps off her shoulders and she wasn’t giggling anymore. She breathed shallowly, the movement in her chest making her breasts jiggle just slightly. Oscar kissed them, her soft moans making his cock ache.

Oscar had lost track of time when they were finally both naked, Jessica sitting astride him. He felt like he’d been punched in the gut and he couldn’t even groan, could barely even breathe when she pushed down around him, tight and slick. He gasped wordlessly, hands squeezing her hips as she started to move. The entire world had shrunk down to her bedroom, to her bed, to the pool of light surrounding them. They didn’t speak at all until she was riding him hard enough to make her headboard shudder against the wall and then Oscar groaned, “Oh my god, Jess,” and then he was coming, bliss washing over him in waves.

Afterwards, they lay next to each other, cocooned in separate blankets. Oscar stroked her bare arm, brushing the hair off her cheeks. He didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t sound ridiculously trite and hollow. But Jessica seemed at a loss for words too. She sighed deeply, like she usually did when he was acting like a douche, but her expression was soft.

The next morning, Oscar woke up to the smell of coffee brewing. He threw on his clothes from the night before and found Jessica with a mug ready for him.

“Thanks,” he muttered. It was milky as hell and loaded with sugar, as usual.

“I’ll miss you,” she said softly, not really looking at him.

“Yeah, me too,” he said, watching her stare into her mug.

The day had dawned cloudy and grey.

 

A few years later, when Oscar had graduated, he was still waiting for his big break. He felt like it was constantly right around the corner. He’d gotten a few movies but none of them were even out yet. Jessica, however, was in a new movie.

Sobbing in the theater wasn’t exactly a new occurrence for Oscar, but seeing her on the screen seemed to have broken something inside him. It wasn’t just that she was so talented. And beautiful. He felt like he had missed the class that taught people how to do that, inhabit a character the way she was doing. It felt like he wasn’t even watching Jessica, but someone else.

He had tried to be as optimistic as he could be, internalize all the encouragement he constantly heard about working hard and eventually he would find success because he was so talented, blah blah blah. He ran into her at a bar and it felt likes ages since he’d last seen her.

“What are you up to?” she asked, bright and bubbly as ever. “I want to know everything.”

So he told her everything, even though it seemed paltry in comparison to whatever she was doing. She was enthusiastic and encouraging though, and Oscar did admit he felt a little better. Maybe it was just her hand on his arm.

“You’re going to be a big star,” she said after a few Jack and cokes. “I can just tell.”

“Thanks,” he muttered, toying with his drink stirrer.

“Look at your hair, it’s gotten so long,” she said fondly, mussing his curls. Oscar hoped that the low light in the bar would disguise his blush. “I forgot to tell you, my boyfriend saw you in that play you did last year.”

“Oh?” he said, suddenly feeling worse than ever.

“Yeah, he said you were incredible.”

“Oh, cool,” he muttered. “Tell him thanks.”

“You know what would be amazing?” she mused, unfazed by his sudden surliness. “Working together.”

“You and me?”

“Yeah, dummy.”

“That would be fun,” he said slowly, watching her pillow her cheek on her hand, her soft smile making her eyes twinkle.

She still smelled the same, like spiced vanilla and something he was trying to forget.

 

It would be a long time before that happened. Longer than Oscar was anticipating, but that’s just how things tend to work out. By then, Oscar had realized his “big break” was just a myth he couldn’t keep hanging all his hopes on, and he'd gotten steadily more successful year after year. Jessica had too. At the time, he didn’t know he had the job before he even auditioned because Jessica had talked him up, but that hardly mattered. They were finally working on something together.

Oscar couldn’t have asked for a better job. He was working with his friend, who he hadn’t seen nearly often enough, and they could sit for hours, pulling apart the script and developing their characters like the pair of drama nerds they really were.

“Oh my god, this is like school all over again,” she laughed one evening at his apartment. They were sharing a bottle of wine and going over the script, pulling out all their old Julliard lingo.

“With much less neuroses,” Oscar said with a chuckle.

“Neurotic? You were not neurotic. At no point in time have you ever been neurotic.”

“If you say so,” he said, pouring more wine. He couldn’t remember having so much fun with a future costar. It really felt like they were kids again, that a decade hadn’t passed since then.

She had her feet in his lap and he had started stroking her ankle right under the cuff of her jeans. She hadn’t said anything about it being weird and he couldn’t seem to stop. The wine was getting to his head. She kept touching his arm every time he made her laugh. He watched her sweep her hair off her face and he thought suddenly of the last time he jerked off, how the thing that made him come was thinking about her on top of him. He looked down, watched the wine swirling in his glass. Her skin was warm under his fingers.

“We’ll have to do something about your hair,” she said suddenly and he felt her hand on his neck.

“Why, what’s wrong with my hair?” he muttered. She cupped the back of his head, fingers tangled in the curls at the base of his neck.

“Too wild. Abel is more polished,” she said thoughtfully. “And I think Anna is blonde.”

“Blonde?” he said, trying to keep his voice steady. Her touch had spread warmth all through his body.

“Yeah, don’t you think?” she said, dragging her other hand through her red locks.

Oscar didn’t respond because he didn’t want to say something stupid. Like now that he would see her every day, get the chance to touch her hair, and she was dyeing it blonde. Not that there was anything unattractive about blondes, but he might be a little obsessed with her hair, if his masturbatory fantasies were anything to go by.

“If you say so,” Oscar said finally and Jessica laughed.

She let go of his hair and tilted her head to the side, looking at him. He hadn’t asked her if she was seeing anyone and she hadn’t brought it up. He was going over possible conversation starters in his head but they all sounded too forced or too desperate. He was tired and she was beautiful. Maybe he didn’t have to say anything.

He reached out and brushed the hair off her forehead, tucking it behind her ear. Something changed in her face immediately and she was looking at him differently. She didn’t pull away though and he was more aware than ever of their physical closeness. Jessica looked at him, her mouth solemn but her eyes intense, and took him by the wrist, turning his hand over so she could kiss his palm. Oscar swallowed thickly and he couldn’t tear his eyes away from hers.

“Are you Oscar or Abel right now?” she muttered and he felt his heart constrict.

She nudged closer and then she was kissing him. It felt surreal, like all the intervening years fell away and he was in her apartment again, in her bed, waking up beside her and kissing her good morning. She tasted like wine this time, but he smelled warm vanilla and pulled her close. He touched her hair, feeling it slide between his fingers, so smooth and soft. Before he knew it, she was in his lap, straddling him and Oscar pulled her flush by the back of her thighs. He kissed all down her neck, drinking her in. He felt her fingers in his hair, tugging slightly. He groaned, hands sliding up her body to feel the sides of her breasts.

She breathed hard as he pushed his hands up her blouse to touch her bare skin. He didn’t want to push her away, didn’t want to hear her say it was a bad idea and they shouldn’t do it, but he raised his head anyway. Her face was flushed pink, her lips red. He couldn’t speak. He kissed her again.

He wanted to never stop kissing her but he could feel how warm she was through her slacks and he was achingly hard as he panted and thrust against her. It was all going to go in a specific direction very soon and there was something Oscar wanted to do first, something he had been fantasizing about for almost a decade.

Jessica’s hands were still tangled in his hair and he gently dislodged her, moving her to sit on the couch and she looked at him in confusion for a moment before he dropped to his knees before her. His hands weren’t trembling this time, not like when he was a nervous 20-year-old. But he felt the same kind of desperation as he unbuttoned her slacks and pulled them down her legs, taking her underwear with them.

He looked up at her face, glowing pink, her eyes hooded, lips slightly parted and then dipped his face between her thighs. He lifted her legs up onto his shoulders, kissing her inner thigh gently before licking her. Jessica gasped, her thighs clenching. He licked her again, sucking lightly. Jessica grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled, not so gently.

“Holy shit,” he heard her breathe, thighs trembling. He didn’t want to stop.

He kept licking her, tongue circling her clit until she was shuddering and moaning his name again. He laid his cheek on her warm thigh, thinking about how he hadn’t shaved that day and if she minded the stubble scrapes. Her hand worked through his hair, finger-combing his tangled curls.

“That was good,” she muttered and Oscar grinned. He straightened up, pressing the heel of his hand against his hard-on, trying to relieve the throbbing ache. She gave him a look, wickedness gleaming in her eyes. “C’mere,” she said, crooking her finger.

Oscar scrambled up to kiss her properly, lying sideways on the couch on top of her. He thought distantly of talking her to his bed so he could do this right, but then he felt her hand rubbing him firmly through his pants and he couldn’t possibly have moved.

“You better fuck me now,” she whispered and the vulgarity coming from her mouth went straight to his cock.

He wrestled out of his clothes while Jessica pulled off her top and unhooked her bra. She hadn’t changed at all since school, she was still perfect and beautiful and smooth. He lightly pinched her nipple, loving her small gasp, the lush parting of her lips. Oscar had once hoped he’d get at least a little taller after college, but he did fill out in other ways. Jessica smirked, touching his arms, hand sliding down his back to cup his ass and pull him closer.

“I’ve been thinking about this,” he muttered, his brain going haywire with all the stimulation. “A lot.”

“Yeah,” she said and then groaned, her back arching as he pushed into her. Only later would he think about that and wonder what she meant, if she was agreeing with him, if she had thought about it at all.

For the time being, he couldn’t think about anything beyond the feel of her body moving beneath him, the fine sheen of sweat on her breasts as he touched her, his body wound so tight he felt like he was going to explode after a few weak pumps. He slowed down, tried to control his breathing. Jessica touched the back of his neck, kissed his throat, nibbled on his ear. Oscar braced himself on the back of the couch and hitched her legs up around his waist so he could thrust deeper and Jessica moaned softly, moving to meet him.

Everything that had happened before had been idealized in his mind, smoothed over, perfected and revisited almost every time he touched himself. He thought the reality couldn’t live up to that, but now he wasn’t so sure. She felt perfect beneath him and he couldn’t stop kissing her or touching her hair. It felt like in no time at all his balls were tightening, and Jessica whispered something in his ear that he couldn’t make out and he came with a strangled moan.

They lay on the couch all tangled together. Oscar was sweaty, sticky, exhausted. He pillowed his head on her breasts and didn’t want to move. She pet his curls and stroked his shoulders and he didn’t want to look up and see the look on her face. If she regretted it at all, he didn’t know what he’d do.

“We should go to bed,” she said after a while.

“Yeah,” he said softly. Her soft touch was about to send him off to sleep.

He sat up, their skin unsealing from where it had stuck together. He stretched a little and grinned at her. She smiled back, brushing her knuckles against his cheek. Really, if he chose this moment to ask some stupid question like, “What was that about?” there was absolutely no hope for him.

Instead, he said nothing.

 

“What was that about?”

That was Jessica. The next morning, with her hair still mussed up by sleep, all wrapped up in his sheets like a Roman goddess. Caught off guard, Oscar busied himself with checking his phone.

“You know, research,” he muttered. “Character analysis.”

She laughed and Oscar wanted to hold the back of her head, tilt her face back for a deep kiss.

“You’re a pretentious douchebag, you know,” she said, still smiling.

For a long moment, Oscar wanted to turn to her and tell her no, it wasn’t research. He was just being an idiot like usual. He wanted to beg her to stay so he could spend the whole day kissing her and making love to her. But he didn’t. He laughed and said, “Yeah, that’s me, hipster fuck.”

“I should go,” she said sitting up and grabbing her clothes off the floor.

Oscar flicked open the curtain so he could check the weather. Warm sunlight, blue sky. He felt like a coward. He watched her get dressed, red hair brushing off her pale shoulders. He wanted to call out to her, pull her back into his arms, but his throat stuck together.

“Text me,” he finally managed to say, which sounded so incredibly stupid.

“Oh, I know you’ll text me first,” she said wryly.

Oscar grinned, doing his best to show he wasn’t bothered. No hard feelings and all, they were still pals. He needed coffee. His head hurt. He watched her go, her hair still messy and unbrushed. It felt like he was saying goodbye all over again.

In a way, he was. The next time he saw her, she was blonde.

“Looks fabulous,” he said sincerely.

“Yeah, I’m happy with it,” she said, teasing it up and grinning at her reflection.

“Wanna come over tonight?” he tried all fake casual.

“What, for more ‘character research?’”

He couldn’t tell to what extent she was mocking him, but he plowed ahead anyway.

“Yeah, don’t you want to get deeper with the characters?” he said, grinning all sly.

She gave him a look that could have been, “Oh, fuck off” or “Please fuck me,” he couldn’t tell.

“I’ll be there,” she said at last, still admiring her reflection and playing with her new hair. “You better have wine, though.”

 

They had a kind of routine, one that often had to get sidelined as shooting picked up, but one that Oscar looked forward to more than anything. She’d come over, they’d get drunk, talk about work, maybe watch a movie, screw. Sometimes he would pretend he was still the Abel to her Anna, but more often than not he didn’t say anything. Every morning Jessica had one excuse or another for why she had to leave early and Oscar would let her go, pretending to be totally cool with it.

It was all cheerful banter and good natured ribbing on set, just like old times. He didn’t trust himself to touch her casually, but he couldn’t stop her from grabbing his arm when she laughed or rubbing his shoulder when she walked past him. Shooting their intimate scenes was easier than he had anticipated and he had expected disaster. But he was always acting with her, in one way or another. He’d been there before.

“Of course, I have your balls in a vice,” she said casually on the way to the shoot one day.

“Bullshit,” he muttered.

She just gave him a patronizing little grin and he frowned. She was right, but he wasn’t going to say it. He wasn’t going to say she was right even when they weren’t Abel and Anna.

That night, he fucked her with more desperation than usual. He always tried to be chill, act like it was no big deal, they were just having fun, ha ha. He couldn’t help cracking a little when she was on top of him, pinning his wrists to the bed. It made him crazy, and he’d say crazy things.

“Oh fuck, Jess, I love –“ and he’d have to bite his lip so hard he’d taste blood.

Afterwards, he played with her hair, wishing he could see inside her head. She was so opaque sometimes but asking her outright might shatter the fragile bubble that surrounded them, tear open his heart and she’d probably leave him bleeding. Not from any kind of malice, but Jessica would be practical until the end. It was one of the things he loved about her.

One day he texted her on set, “hey i’m bored. come entertain me.” All he got back was, “ur a loser” but after twenty minutes, Jessica was knocking on his dressing room door. She wasn’t in costume anymore, which meant no nails or shoulder pads, which was probably for the best. Oscar had changed out of his costume, but his hair was still teased up big.

“Well?” he said and she raised her eyebrow at him. “Aren’t you going to entertain me? Give me a lap dance or something?”

He got a punch in the shoulder for that and he was kidding anyway. Mostly. They listened to music and chatted aimlessly about the scene they were scheduled to shoot the next day. Jessica was snuggled up close to him on his tiny couch, getting closer and closer, toying with his hair.

“I think you’re obsessed,” he said as she teased her fingers through his locks. All the product was starting to relax, his curls returning to normal.

“You’re one to talk,” she muttered and Oscar blushed. The only time he touched her hair was in bed and they both knew it. He hated to think how much he showed his hand without meaning to, how transparent he must seem to her.

She must have picked up on his sudden moodiness because she stopped touching his hair, her hand sliding down to cup the back of his neck.

“You’re one of my best friends, you know,” she said softly and she must have known how much that hurt. Or maybe she didn’t. He couldn’t look at her. “I should go. See you tomorrow,” she said after a long, agonizing pause.

He had been planning on asking her over, but he couldn’t now. This was becoming the saddest, most pathetic part of their arrangement. The part where he watched her leave.

 

They fucked a few more times before the end of the shoot, but it felt different, more restrained on her part. It was kind of like trying to enjoy a party after hearing devastating news, but acting cool so you don’t cause a panic. Smile and laugh, everything’s fine! But the house is burning down and you’re choking on smoke.

They went their separate ways, to new and exciting projects, still chatting over text or email like everything was normal and not at all weird. Oscar had gotten really good at pretending to be cheerful and it was easy enough through text. Add happy face emojis, everything is fine. Somehow, he sometimes thought his pillow still smelled like her perfume. It made his cock ache and his heart hurt at the same time.

On his birthday, she actually called him. Oscar put so much cheer in his voice that he almost fooled himself. It was a total coincidence that he had his hand down his shorts at the time.

“Happy birthday, you’re one step closer to death,” she said.

“Thank god,” he muttered. He closed his eyes, focusing on her voice. “I long for its sweet release.”

“I could make a joke about sweet releases, but I won’t,” she said with a laugh.

Oscar chuckled, but his hand was still around his cock, casually stroking.

“Did you do anything fun?” she asked lightly.

“Yeah, so many things,” he said, a lump forming in his throat.

“Good, you deserve fun things,” she said. “I’ll be seeing you again soon, for the press tour.”

“Yeah, can’t wait.” He was getting close.

“I gotta run, talk to you later, old man.”

And she was gone. Oscar squeezed the head of his cock, eyes burning. It hurt, it hurt, and he couldn’t go on. Instead he rolled over and tried not to cry.

 

On the first day of the press tour, she laughed in his face. Which was fine, he was sporting his mustache and honestly, he expected it from her.

“Oh my god, you’ve reached your final form,” she said, still cackling. “You are hipster level one hundred.”

“I like it, actually,” he said, smoothing a finger over his lip. “I can make it work.”

“Yeah, OK,” she said but then she hugged him, warm and close. She smelled like vanilla. She kissed his cheek and he tried very hard not to make it linger. Her hair was long and red again and it was a struggle not to touch it more than necessary.

Jessica was so charismatic that it was easy to absorb her energy, be his charming self. They stayed in the same hotel, went out to the same bars. Shooting a movie was a bit like summer camp and doing the press tour was like the reunion, after you’d grown up some, got less awkward. She could make him laugh like no one else.

And then there they were, on stage together and he had to be honest.

“It was, for me, the most rewarding experience I’ve had working with somebody,” he said, and it didn’t even occur to him to say anything else.

Jessica looked a little flabbergasted and he realized too late how intense he just sounded.

“Really?”

“Yeah.” Of course.

“I love you, Oscar Isaac,” she gushed, reaching over to tap his leg and fucking hell.

The rest of that night was sort of a blur. He knew what she meant, she loves him in the same way she loves all her friends. It was just shocking to hear it and he must have blushed so red. It kept repeating in his head like a piece of tape being continuously rewound.

A few nights later they were out drinking and maybe he got plastered. He didn’t mean to, but when does he ever? Jessica took him back to his hotel room and put him to bed, gently ribbing him the whole time.

“You better thank me personally when you accept your Oscar, Oscar,” she said, untying his shoes for him.

“Yeah, that’d be the day,” he muttered. He was distracted by her hair, how it seemed to glow in the LED track lighting, illuminating the golden strands among the red.

“I’m serious,” she said in a tone anything but. “When you get your mini-you…”

“I love you too,” he muttered and she stopped talking.

He was drunk enough he didn’t feel immediate horror, but there was a slow creeping oh my god why as she stared at him, her expression inscrutable. Her eyes were soft and tender but she still didn’t speak as she leaned down, brushing the hair off his forehead.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said in a low voice and he grabbed her hand, kissing her wrist before she could pull away.

Oscar could make art out of watching her leave him.

 

He'd been looking forward to the premiere and after-party, but at the same time felt a profound dread. Jessica was luminous in red and Oscar was grateful that JC could talk them both into an early grave because it meant he didn’t have to be as sociable as usual.

Afterwards, Jessica got in the same taxi as him, holding her shoes in one hand. If she noticed how moody he had been, she didn’t mention it.

“Do you want a nightcap?” she asked casually and Oscar tried in vain to swallow the lump in his throat.

“No thanks,” he mumbled. “Not tonight.”

“Oh,” she looked a little hurt and he immediately felt like an asshole.

“Next time,” he said, trying for a genuine smile.

She took his hand and smiled softly, her eyes huge in her face.

“I love you,” she said softly when the cab got to her place.

“Yeah, I know,” he said, trying not to let her see how much that hurt.

“No, Oscar…” she paused, turning away. “Anyway, see you later.”

“Wait,” he said, grabbing for her hand again. Suddenly the thought of seeing her leave again was too much to bear.

She looked back at him, her hand warm in his.

“Can’t we actually try this time?” he said in a rush. “Like really try, for real?” He didn’t know what he was saying, it sounded so stupid, but Jessica’s eyes widened and she bit her lip.

“C’mon,” she said, tugging on his hand.

He paused for only half a second. He’d been a coward too many times before.

This time, he wouldn’t be watching her leave. This time, he’d be the one staying.